As a child growing up, one always looks for idols. Well, I found mine in Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Arguably one of the finest batsman in the world, he is the reason why I love cricket.
The first match I remember watching him play was at the '96 World Cup. The way he took on the bowlers was simply amazing. The Master Blaster was in good form and his eventual tally of 523 runs was the highest in the tournament.
Had he not gotten out to the Wily Murali in the semis, India would have won the coveted cup for the second time running. He scored 650+ runs in the '03 World Cup with India losing in the finals due to him getting out early while chasing a massive target against the Aussies.
My cousin Croydon and myself, as you know, are cricket fans and are fanatical fans of him. If we watch a match together when India plays, looking at his body movements only, we know how well he is going to play during the match or whether he will get out early.
And I absolutely hate it when we sense he is going to get out and all because somehow it's always in the affirmative.
He is a complete batsman adept at playing all around the wicket, comfortable playing both on the back foot and the front foot. If he does have any weakness, it's probably that he doesn't like playing against left-arm spinners. The only time he has been stumped in cricket was to the English left arm spinner Ashley Giles.
He has faced a lot of trails and tribulations and has made a lot of sacrifices to be where he is today. Suffered quite a number of injuries as well ( The most famous being the Tennis Elbow) and loss of form as well. As the saying goes, "Form is temporary , Class is permanent." He has always come successfully back with a good innings.
One of my fondest memories was watching an old match where he bowled India to victory against South Africa with six runs to get in the last over. It was the 100s in Sharjah Against the Aussies in '98 comes for special mention as well. He ripped them apart.
Well, one of the most amusing stories I have heard is that during his debut tour to Pakistan in '89/'90. He was playing an exhibition match and was taking the bowlers on.
Great Pakistani Leg Spinner Abdul Qadir comes up to him and tells him, 'Son, why are you hitting kids around the park. Try hitting my bowling." Imagine a ground where there is a placard with "You should be drinking milk" around the ground.
Sachin doesn't say anything and let's his bat do the talking. He hits Qadir for three consecutive sixes and scores 26 runs in that over and, as they say, the rest is history.
When people talk abt Sachin retiring after a few bad games, I shudder to think what Indian Cricket would be without him. Dhoni is a good captain and is building a good cricket unit. But experience is valuable, and I hope Sachin can play for at least another two years before he decides to hang up his boots.
He has four main batting records: Highest Run Getter in both Test and ODI and with more than 29,000 runs with 85 centuries 42 in Tests and 43 in ODIs , Most Man of the Matches ( 50 odd ). I think he can complete a record of 100 International centuries in both Tests and ODI combined.
He has been a fine servant to Indian cricket and a exemplary role model for any young cricketer to follow. What matters most is what he is off the field and always with a word of encouragement and advice if any cricketer comes to him for help and humble nature at heart.
My wish is for him to win the World Cup in 2011. After narrowly missing it in '96 (India lost in semis) and '03 (India losing in the finals), I think that would be an ideal swansong for him.